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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: pickles

 

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Cucumbers are in season and they are plentiful at the Farmers’ Market. Want to make something other than cucumber salad? Try pickles. Making pickles isn’t complicated. You can preserve homemade pickles using three basic methods: lactic fermentation (cured with a salt brine), canning (soaked in pickling lime) or refrigeration (immersed in a vinegar solution).

Brined Pickles

Many enthusiasts swear fermentation yields a better pickle than the pickles made with vinegar. They are also called “crock pickles” or “brine pickles”.

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Procedure:

Place the recipe ingredients inside the crock. Make the pickle brine and pour into the crock. Cover with a weight to keep food submerged and drape with a towel to keep out the dust. Ferment at room temperature for 2 or more weeks. Check container daily and skim any scum from the top. Fermentation bubbles may be visible. Taste pickles regularly.

When the pickles reach a flavor you like, you have three options for storing them:

1. Refrigerate to slow fermentation. Pickles should last 4 to 6 months this way. Note that pickled vegetables last longer than pickled fruits, which generally keep well for only 2 to 3 months.

2. Store in a dark, cool spot, such as the basement, where your homemade pickles will continue to ferment but should stay safe for several months.

3. Can fermented pickles for extended storage. The heat of canning compromises their crisp texture and kills the beneficial bacteria, but the flavor will remain. Canned fermented food could last a couple of years.

Kosher Dill Pickles

This recipe, adapted from, The Joy of Pickling, uses grape, oak or sour cherry leaves, which contain tannins believed to help keep fermented homemade pickles crisp. Store-bought, canned grape leaves will also work. Yield: 1 gallon.

Equipment

Clean, gallon-sized glass jar or ceramic crock

Gallon-sized plastic bag or fitted crock weights

Ingredients

  • 1 handful clean grape, oak or sour cherry leaves
  • Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
  • Peeled cloves from 2 to 3 heads of garlic
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
  • 1/4 cup dill seed or 2 handfuls dill fronds

Directions

Place the leaves in the bottom of a clean crock. Slice blossom ends off the cucumbers and pack cucumbers into the crock, smallest ones first, adding garlic cloves throughout. Do not fill the crock more than two-thirds full.

In a separate container, stir together water, vinegar, salt and dill until salt dissolves. Pour this brine over the cucumbers until the liquid is an inch above the cucumbers when you’re pressing them down. If your crock has weights, set them on top of the cucumbers to submerge them. If you don’t have special weights, fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with water and set it on top to keep cucumbers submerged. Cover the crock with towel to keep out dust.

Ferment pickles for 1 to 4 weeks at room temperature, checking crock daily. Scum may develop on top; this is normal. Carefully lift off the weight and rinse it to remove scum. Skim scum from the top of the container before replacing the weight and towel. Do this daily.

You may notice bubbles after the first few days, indicating lactic fermentation is underway. After a week, begin tasting the pickles daily. Keep fermenting until you enjoy the flavor.

To store, place crock in a cool, dry, dark spot (the basement, for example), or remove pickles to smaller, lidded containers in the refrigerator. (If using metal lids, place a piece of plastic wrap between the container and the lid.) You may rinse fermented pickles and cover them with fresh pickle brine and seasonings or strain and reuse the original brine. The pickle flavor will improve after about a month in cooler conditions.

Note: If pickles become slimy or moldy during fermentation, discard them and try again.

Canned Vinegar Pickles

(If you are new to canning methods, the Ball Canning Company has excellent directions. visit their website at  http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started)

Most modern pickling recipes rely on an acetic acid (vinegar) solution and heat treatment to preserve the vegetables. Vinegar pickles can be sweet, spicy or extremely sour. Popular examples include bread-and-butter pickles, sour gherkins and dill beans. You must use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity to produce pickles that are safe for long-term storage.

Distilled white vinegar is the best choice because it’s inexpensive and won’t darken the cucumbers and  its flavor is mild in comparison to cider, malt or wine vinegars. Avoid using rice vinegar and homemade vinegars, because their acidity is usually too weak. Always use canning recipes that have been tested for safety.

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Procedure:

Heat vinegar, water and seasonings to make a brine. Pack whole or chopped ingredients into sterilized canning jars. Cover with hot brine, leaving appropriate head space. Apply lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath.

Vinegar-Preserved Old-Fashioned Lime Pickles

This combination of ingredients and techniques makes a super-crisp, complex flavored sweet-and-sour pickle. Pre-soaking cucumbers in pickling lime keeps them very crisp.

Yield: 4 quarts.

Equipment

4 quart-sized canning jars with lids and rings

Water bath canner with rack

Candy thermometer

Ingredients

Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed

Soaking Solution

  • 1 cup food-grade pickling lime (calcium hydroxide)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1 gallon cold water

Syrup Mixture

  • 2 quarts cider or white wine vinegar (minimum 5 percent acidity; cider vinegar will darken pickles)
  • 6 cups granulated sugar or 5-1⁄4 cups honey (honey will darken the brine)
  • 2-1⁄2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
  • 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice, store-bought or homemade
  • 3 pounds white or yellow onions, diced

Homemade Pickling Spice

Enclose the spices in cheesecloth and close the top with kitchen string.

  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1-inch piece of turmeric root, peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small, whole, dried chile pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried chile pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

To prepare cucumbers for soaking:

Cut them into quarter-inch slices and discard the ends. In a 2-gallon or larger non reactive (glass, plastic or ceramic) container mix pickling lime with salt and water. Add cucumbers and soak for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Scoop slices from lime solution, rinse in a colander and soak for 1 hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat rinsing and soaking in cold water at least two more times to completely remove the pickling lime. Drain well.

In a large pot, whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice or your homemade spice packet. Add onions. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to make a syrup.

Sterilize 4 quart-sized canning jars and lids in boiling water. Pack cucumbers and onions into the jars and pour hot syrup over them, leaving a half-inch head space. Use a knife or chopstick to eliminate air bubbles. Wipe jar rims clean. Apply lids and rings.

The pickles can be canned via low-temperature pasteurization to avoid the higher heat that softens them.

To pasteurize:

Fill the canner halfway with water and heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Set filled jars in the canner and continually monitor water temperature for 30 minutes. Make adjustments to maintain 180 degrees for the duration. The thermometer reading should never exceed 185 degrees. (Learn more about how to make pickles using the low-temperature pasteurization method at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.)

Alternatively, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. The flavor of vinegar pickles will improve after about a month in storage.

Refrigerator Pickles

Sometimes called “quick pickles,” refrigerator pickles are technically vinegar pickles minus the canning. You can adjust a refrigerator pickle recipe — to use less salt or sugar or none at all — without food-safety fears. Refrigerator pickles stay crisp because the cucumbers are not subjected to heat. Making pickles using this method is fast and they are typically ready to eat within a day but should be consumed within a few months.

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Procedures:

Prepare vinegar solution and pour over sliced vegetables. Cover and refrigerate.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 6 pickling cucumbers
  • 3/4 ounce fresh dill

Directions

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, dill seed, mustard seeds and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.

Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise or in thick round circles and place in a 1 quart glass jar; add fresh dill. Top with hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will stay good for roughly a month.

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Any combination of vegetables can be used in place of the cucumbers in the easy refrigerator pickle recipe. Here are a few examples:

  • 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
  • 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
  • A few pieces of cauliflower
  • 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos

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Interested in learning how to prepare Nordic Food? Here is your chance.

From September 13-20, 2014, New York City will be hosting the second annual NORTH Food Festival. You can attend one of the elegant dinners or attend the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championship where Chefs battle it out for the prestigious title of Nordic Hot Dog Champion. If you will be in the area, you may want to sign up for some cooking classes. Here are just two of the featured classes. The remainder are listed on the website.

Cooking Lessons on Preparing  Nordic Seafood

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/cooking-class-taste-and-cook-with-the-future-of-food-seafood-from-norway-tickets-12487589717

Cooking Lessons on Nordic Pastry Making

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/cooking-class-nordic-pastry-class-with-chef-maria-ostberg-presented-by-fika-tickets-12487679987

Here is a Video from the 2013 Festival to pique your interest.

http://vimeo.com/77597221

For more information on the North Food Festival:

http://honestcooking.com/north-food-festival-new-york-city/

 

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Summer Drinks

The sky is bright, the days are long and the weather warm: think Iced tea!  Now, with so many delicious loose-leaf tea varieties, you can really experiment to make easy, delicious and, most importantly, healthy iced tea for you and your family to enjoy. Here are some combinations to add some excitement to your cold tea.

Iced Tea Preparation Tips

Here are some guidelines for making iced tea.

As with any tea, you want to brew the tea first, using the correct-temperature hot water and proper steeping time. The only difference with iced tea is that it’s important to add double the amount of tea to strengthen the tea flavor. Once you add ice, the tea is going to dilute.

With green and white tea, the leaves are delicate and, therefore, boiling water will singe them. It’s best to heat the water to 175°F and steep for 2 1/2 minutes.

With black tea, use boiling water and steep for up to 5 minutes. You don’t want to leave the tea for too long or it will become bitter.

Once the tea is done steeping, pour over ice and it is ready.

If you’re making a cup for just yourself, use 2 teaspoons of tea.

Making iced tea for a crowd? Pitcher sizes vary, but generally one cup of loose-leaf tea for a large pitcher will be sufficient. Make the tea in a large pot, sweeten to taste and pour over ice when ready.

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Add Flavor To Iced Tea Drinks

Sencha Green Tea with Rose Petals and Cherry

This combination is naturally sweet, so no sugar is needed. Simply add some dried cherries and rose petals to sencha tea (a Japanese green tea). You receive great metabolism-boosting benefits from the green tea as well as antioxidants and vitamins.

Orange, Apple, Hibiscus Tea Cooler

Another unique, refreshing blend that is surprising in its depth and flavor is orange peel, apple peel, hibiscus and rosehip. They come together to create a caffeine-free fruit combination that’s perfect for kids and adults alike. It does have a hint of tartness to it, so add a bit of honey or agave to give it a slightly sweet taste. This tea is also packed with vitamins, especially vitamin C, which rosehip and hibiscus are rich in. It can be added, as well, to summer coolers and even sangria. Pour it into Popsicle molds to create a refreshing treat.

Traditional Iced Tea with Mango

If you’re looking for something more traditional, try organic black tea with some dried mango. The mango infuses the black tea with a fruity flavor.

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Tropical Sangria

Ingredients

  • 3 cups mixed berries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 orange, cut into small wedges
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 750 ml cold Rose’ wine, chilled
  • 1 cup orange juice, chilled
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, chilled
  • Fresh pineapple chunks for garnish

Directions

Gently mix berries with the honey and let sit to macerate about 20 minutes. Just enough to be slightly softened. Pour into a large pitcher.

Add brandy, triple sec, juices and chilled wine. Stir and chill. Top with ice cubes.and serve in wine glasses. Garnish with fruit.

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Cucumber Mojitos

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 cups agave syrup, honey or natural sugar
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle light (white) rum
  • 2 cups sparkling water or lemon-lime soda
  • Crushed ice

To serve:

  • 1 medium medium cucumber, cut into thin rounds for garnish
  • Fresh mint
  • Lime wedges

Directions

Combine water, cucumbers, mint, agave syrup and lime juice in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids.

Combine cucumber mixture and rum in a large pitcher. Stir well. Refrigerate up to 4 hours.

To serve:

Fill glasses with crushed ice. Fill each glass halfway with cucumber mixture and top with sparkling water or soda. Garnish with a slice of cucumber, sprig of mint and a lime wedge.

For a kid-friendly alternative: make a double batch of cucumber mixture (one for adults; one for kids), omitting the rum in half of the mixture. Top with lemon-lime soda.

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Watermelon Lemonade

12 servings

Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Lemonade:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds

To make sugar syrup:

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and boil for 10 minutes. Place the sugar syrup in the freezer or refrigerator while you do the rest of the preparation.

To serve the lemonade:

Mix the chilled sugar syrup, water, lemon juice and lime juice in a big bowl or pitcher. Add the ice cubes, diced watermelon and other fruit. Stir well and chill until icy cold.

Snacks

With gardens and markets overflowing with ripe fruits and veggies, summer is the easiest season to eat healthfully. These recipes will let you enjoy summer’s bounty and feel good — all season long.

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Green Goddess Dip with Crudites

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, blotted dry with a paper towel
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or other white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups assorted vegetable pieces for dipping (such as cucumber, celery, carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas, mini sweet peppers, fennel, endive, blanched green beans and/or broccoli)

Directions

In a food processor combine avocado, parsley, tarragon, chives, mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, vinegar, milk. lemon peel and black pepper. Cover and process until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl, if needed.

Transfer dressing to a serving bowl; cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Serve with assorted vegetable pieces for dipping.

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Grilled Sherry-Garlic Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 fresh large shrimp in the shells (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

For the marinade:

In a large bowl whisk together sherry, parsley, garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper and salt, whisking until salt is dissolved. Set aside.

To butterfly the shrimp in shells:

Using small kitchen shears and starting at the head, cut through the shell along the entire backside of each shrimp (do not remove the shell). Remove and discard the vein. Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep cut from head to tail, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Rinse; pat dry with paper towels.

Add shrimp to the marinade and, using your hands, gently lift and toss the shrimp to work the marinade into the openings, being careful to keep shells intact. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 1 to 3 hours. Drain shrimp; discarding marinade.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Grill shrimp and lemon pieces on the grates directly over medium-high heat, covered, 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp are opaque and lemon pieces are lightly charred, turning once.

Transfer shrimp and lemon pieces to a large serving bowl. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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Oven-Fried Dill Pickles

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 30 crinkle-cut dill pickle slices (about 1 cup), rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add drained pickles, stirring to coat evenly.

In a food processor combine panko, cornmeal, paprika, pepper and garlic powder; cover and process about 20 seconds or until evenly fine crumb forms. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish.

Working in batches, add a few buttermilk-coated pickles to the panko mixture, stirring with a fork to coat. Shake off excess crumbs. Arrange pickles in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Lightly coat tops of pickles with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn pickles over. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

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Smoked Tuna Bites

6 servings

Ingredients

Tuna Spread

  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 5 ounce can or pouch chunk white tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons diced pimiento, drained

Appetizer

  • 24 thin water crackers
  • 1/2 of an English cucumber (about 8 ounces), cut into 24 slices, each about 1/8 inch thick
  • Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, onion, 1 tablespoon chives, the oil, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke until creamy. Flake tuna with a fork.

Add tuna and the pimiento to the cream cheese mixture; stir until well mixed. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To assemble:

Spread 1/2 teaspoon of the tuna mixture on each cracker. Top each with a cucumber slice and another 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tuna mixture. Sprinkle with chives.

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Eggplant Bruschetta

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on eggplant slices, plus 2 teaspoons for the bruschetta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 16 slices toasted Italian bread

Directions

Slice eggplant in thin circles, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and Italian seasoning.

Bake them on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Finely dice the eggplant and combine with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil, garlic, tomato and basil.

Spread on toasted baguette slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a platter and serve.


condiments

There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself and does not typically contribute much nutritional value.

Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise and, in the United Kingdom, they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheese, such as Parmesan, being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.

Condiments and spreads add that little kick to many dishes and, whether you’re eating hummus as a dip for vegetables or blue cheese sauce on chicken wings, these additions have become essential accompaniments. Sometimes, though, those little additions aren’t doing you any favors. Most of them aren’t very good for you. Most condiments, like ketchup, have a ton of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Even bottled salad dressing usually has a lot of fat and sugar in it!

Not all condiments are dangerous (especially when they’re made at home), but added ingredients can cause problems. While ’50 percent less sodium’ or ‘less fat’ seems appealing, these labels can get confusing. It’s important to understand how to read labels and not just compare them with other products. Light salad dressings, for example, can get tricky, according to Women’s Health Magazine, since most people assume ‘light’ refers to healthier, they often end up using more. Some lowfat condiments add extra sugar or salt to make up for fat and taste.

Sometimes, condiments may be the reason your meals are unhealthy. As far as nutrition goes, most of us already know that adding a few dabs of ketchup on your burger won’t kill you. Getting rid of condiments and sauces altogether isn’t the answer either, instead, look for healthier options and make homemade recipes as alternatives. Try the recipes below for some healthy homemade versions of your favorite condiments.

Homemade Ketchup

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Makes about 3 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 28 ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paste and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run through a food processor until very smooth.

Return to the saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Gently reheat over low heat for 8 minutes.

Pour into a sterilized jar and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use extra ketchup to make some of the sauces below.

Seafood Cocktail Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more if you want it hotter)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, recipe below 
  • Large pinch of Kosher salt

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or horseradish to taste.

Chill until ready to use – for best results allow sauce to chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

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About 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 cup peach purée (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

(You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated.

This sauce freezes well.

Peach Puree

Makes 1 cup, enough for the recipe above.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Process peaches, sugar and water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth.

Herbed Honey Mustard

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 
  • 3 tablespoons dry yellow mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or any herb vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 

Directions

Put the seeds, dry mustard, and water in a bowl. Let this mixture stand 2 hours or until the seeds become soft. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.

When the seeds are soft, put the mixture in the food processor and run until the mixture is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, honey, salt and herbs. Place in a lidded jar and allow to stand at room temperature to mellow (about 1 1/2 hours).

Store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.

Olive Oil Mayonnaise

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Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 cup light olive oil (Not extra virgin.)

Directions

Place the egg and lemon juice in a blender or food processor bowl. Let them come to room temperature together, about 30-60 minutes.

Add the dry mustard, salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Blend until well mixed – about 20 to 30 seconds.

Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil into the mixture. To do this, you must pour very slowly… the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil. This takes about three minutes.

If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid starts to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will start to look like regular mayonnaise.

Store in the refrigerator.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish, see recipe below
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill

Makes about ¾ cup of tartar sauce.

Sweet Pickle Relish

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Great sandwich spread.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add cucumbers, bell pepper and onion. Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

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Use these pickles to top your burger.

Ingredients

Makes 3 cups

  • 3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture in the bowl; cool.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can, then, transfer the mixture to jars with tight fitting lids and store them in the refrigerator.

Homemade Hot Sauce

condiments7

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces red jalapenos, stems removed but not the seeds and sliced
  • 7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Directions

Wear gloves to clean the peppers and don’t touch your eyes.

In a large jar, combine the sliced chiles (and seeds), garlic, kosher salt and cider vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it a few little shakes to mix. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight.

The next day, pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan and add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

When cool, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth (this will take a few minutes). Stop and scrape the sides down a couple of times.

Pour into a jar and store it into the refrigerator for up to one month.

Blue Cheese “Hot Wing” Dip

condiments9

Makes about 1/1/2 cups

  • 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove (or half a large), minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 oz good quality crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Pulse the first the 10 ingredients in a food processor 4 times or just until blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and gently stir in blue cheese.

Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.


One of the most beautiful colors of summer in southern Italy is the deep red of chili peppers, strung together and hung out to dry—especially in Calabria. This region, located at the tip of the boot of Italy, is the main producer and consumer of chili pepper, or peperoncino as it is called in Italian.

The chili pepper plant belongs to the Capsicum genus and there are 85 varieties of this species of spicy chili that in Italy goes by the name peperoncino, an ingredient that gives spice to dishes throughout the world. The different types of peperoncino can be distinguished based on their level of sweetness. On the Scoville scale, which measures the “heat” of peppers, peperoncino ranges in the middle. The heat or spice of the peperoncino comes from capsaicin, a substance present in the peppers. There are several varieties of peperoncini grown in Calabria; varieties, such as the Italian Cayenne pepper, the Naso di Cane, or “the nose”. The Ciliegia (cherry), Amando (loving), and Sigarette (cigarette). In southern Italy, these little red peppers are often called diavoletti (little devils); in Calabria and Molise regions, they are called diavulillu; and in the region of Basilicata, they are called diavulicchiu.

Typically, hot countries develop hot, spicy cuisines as a natural means of cooling down the body through perspiration. All hot peppers contain a natural substance that produce a burning sensation in the mouth that can cause watery eyes, a runny nose and perspiration. This is all a plus in the hot climates where perspiration helps to cool the body. The chili pepper has no flavor or odor, but acts directly on the pain receptors in the mouth, throat and eyes.

Chili peppers were grown as a food crop as early as 4000 BC in Central America; but it wasn’t until the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-16th century that the plant was introduced to the rest of the world. Very quickly, trade routes began carrying chili peppers to Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East and Asia. In the Americas, it held great value as a bartering tool in the spice markets.

Dried Chilies

Chilies in Olive Oil

Today, this spice seems to be growing in popularity around the globe. In northern Italy, where chili pepper was virtually unknown just a couple of generations ago, peperoncino is now more and more appreciated and incorporated into Italian cuisine. Spicy food lovers add it to virtually everything – fish, vegetable pasta sauces, soups, stews, pizza, as well as egg dishes. As a general rule of thumb, peperoncino is not recommended for delicate and creamy preparations, but is more suitable for robust sauces and recipes. In southern Italy, ground chili peppers are sometimes added to salumi and cheese. Crushed red pepper that one finds on the table in an Italian restaurant is made from dried hot chili peppers. Also, hot peppers can be preserved in oil to produce a flavorful, spicy oil

A few of the traditional Italian dishes used with these fiery devils are:

  • Ciambotta, – Stew of eggplant, peppers, potatoes, onions and tomatoes
  • Fusilli alla Calabrese con Braciole di Maiale – Homemade pasta rolled around a knitting needle
  • Capocollo – salami made from pork shoulder, marinated in wine or vinegar, smoked and sometimes spiced with hot pepper
  • Soppressata, dry-cured salami, may include hot pepper
  • Chocolate ice cream with chilies

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

“Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil” is a traditional Italian pasta dish, said to have originated from the region of Abruzzo, although it is popular across the country. This is a classic Roman dish, one that most Italian men know how to make. It’s also quite popular as a late night snack among friends, for example, after a night out at the theater.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
  • 1/2 of a dried chili pepper, crumbled,
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • Parsley, chopped

Directions

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti.

Meanwhile, mince the garlic, crumble the red pepper and sauté them in the oil in a large skillet until the garlic begins to brown. Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to overbrown and become bitter).

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and transfer it to the skillet. Mix well. Garnish with parsley.

Serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on the side. Some people like it, whereas others, especially the traditionalists , shudder at the idea.

Fra Diavolo Sauce for Seafood

This is another well-known Italian American spicy, tomato based sauce used for seafood pasta dishes or over steamed mussels. It is not served in Italy.

Ingredients

  • 2 (26-28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes in juice
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium carrots (about 8 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water, white wine or clam broth

Directions

Place the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and with clean hands crush the tomatoes, so they break up into small pieces.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking, about 40 seconds. Add the bay leaves and stir them in the oil for about 10 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until it starts to turn golden, then add the onions, carrots and oregano. Cook the vegetables until they are very brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, just enough to prevent them from burning.

Add the crushed tomatoes with their juice, the tomato paste, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and water (white wine or clam juice can be added depending on the intended use) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the sauce level has reduced by 2 or 3 inches and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

To Make Ahead:

Remove pan from heat and when the sauce cools to room temperature, transfer to a sealed plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. This sauce will keep 10 days in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 2 quarts

Italian Pickled Hot Peppers

Pickled hot peppers are extremely versatile. They can be a great snack, with some cheese and they’re a wonderful addition to a mixed antipasto. They also are excellent at spicing up bland foods, especially boiled meats. It’s easy to pickle hot peppers at home and, if you do, you can make them just the way you want, with none of the additions commercial producers make. You can also use them in the chicken recipe below.

Makes several jars: To judge how many jars I will need, I arrage the peppers in jars until all the peppers are used. I then wash and sterilize the jars.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds fresh, blemish-free hot peppers (e.g. Southern Italian Diavolicchio)
  • Gloves
  • 3-4 cups white wine vinegar that’s 5-6% acetic acid (fruit vinegar will discolor the peppers) 
  • Kosher salt
  • Enough fairly small jars (250 ml or half pint) with lids, cleaned and sterilized

Directions

All peppers, and especially hot peppers, have oils that are extremely irritating and don’t wash off easily, so it is best to wear gloves. If you don’t use gloves, rubbing an eye, even hours later, could be excruciating.

Wash the peppers and pat them dry. Remove any that look blemished. Next, puncture the skins of the peppers with the tines of a fork to allow the vineagr to penetrate.

Pack the jars with the peppers, adding a sprinkling of salt between layers.

Pour the vinegar into a saucepan and bring it to a brief boil (2-3 minutes). Use it to fill the jars, tapping them and gently shaking them to dislodge air bubbles.

Put the lids on the jars and put them on a rack in a sterilizer (or a large pot) with cold water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer the peppers for 20 minutes to sterilize them.

Let the pot cool and when you can safely dip a hand into the water remove the jars. Check the seals of the lids and put the jars in a cool dark place. They’ll be ready in a couple of weeks and will keep for a year.

Italian Chicken with Hot Peppers

You can add a half pound of Italian sausage to this dish when browning the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs or 4 breasts, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3-4 sprigs rosemary, stripped and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 pickled hot peppers, chopped
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Crusty Italian bread, warmed

Directions

Season chicken with salt and pepper and saute in a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add garlic and onion and saute another 5 minutes. Put chicken back in skillet and add broth, lemon juice, tomato paste, herbs and peppers.

Simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until sauce has reduced a bit and chicken is fully cooked.

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Serves 2–4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.), stemmed and cut into florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water; add garlic; cook until golden, 2–3 minutes. Add chili and cook 2 minutes more. Season with salt to taste.

Pork Chops and Peppers

Ingredients

  • 2 center cut pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • 4 hot peppers, plus some of the vinegar from the jar
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Chop garlic and slice bell peppers into long strips.

Chop hot peppers into small pieces

Season chops with salt and pepper.

Lightly dredge pork chops in the flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil In a medium skillet.

Cook pork chops 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil.

In the same pan add the garlic and saute for i minute, then add the bell peppers. After 6 minutes add the chopped hot peppers.

Add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar brine mixture from the peppers and continue to heat the peppers.

Return the pork chops to the skillet and cover cook for about 6 minutes. Serve pork chops with the peppers on top.

Chili Pepper Jam

Italians like to serve this jam with cheese as an appetizer.

Yield: 4 (14-ounce) jars

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces hot chili peppers, halved and seeded
  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed yellow and red bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar

Directions

In a large saucepan combine the chili peppers, bell peppers and apple cider vinegar. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes or until the peppers have softened. In a colander, drain the pepper mixture and with the back of a wooden spoon, press on the peppers to extract any excess liquid.

Transfer the peppers to a food mill or a blender and puree. Press the puree through a sieve to remove the pepper skin. Discard the skin.

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the pepper puree. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and mix until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook the mixture for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat when the mixture resembles a jam texture.

Quickly ladle jam into sterile jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the tops. Cover with flat lids and screw on bands tightly.

Place jars on a rack and slowly lower jars into a canner. The water should cover the jars completely and should be hot but not boiling. Bring water to a boil and process for 5 minutes.

Or, you can seal the jars tightly, cool overnight in the refrigerator and freeze any that you will not be using immediately.


Achieving widespread US popularity, the ‘panino’ or Italian sandwich is known, more commonly, in English by its plural form ‘panini’. The difference between a panini and a regular sandwich is that it’s grilled, has ridges and the sandwich ingredients melt or fuse together, giving delicious flavor and texture to the filling. Panini sandwiches do not need additional butter or oil for grilling and a panini does not need to be turned over, the press does the work.

Panini are easy to make and can be made with any variety of food desired. Served with a salad or soup, a panini can make a complete, fast and healthy meal, eaten any time of the day.

The Panini Grill

A panini grill is very much like a waffle iron, where heat is applied from the top and bottom to cook both sides evenly. Unlike a waffle iron, the panini grill has a larger hinge to accommodate thick bread or flat buns. A panini grill usually has ridges on the top and bottom grilling surface and this creates the signature grilling lines.

If you do not have a panini maker, a George Foreman Grill will make a great panini, but make sure the grill is heated prior to using.

On the stove: Preheat a skillet with butter or oil to medium low. Add your sandwich, then press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Here is how to make your own panini:

There is no one traditional type of bread used for panini, but generally the most popular are ciabatta, focaccia and sourdough. The most important requirement is that your bread be sliced thick enough so that the sandwich can be grilled.

You can use whatever filling you’d like, but here are some suggestions:

  • Italian cold cuts, peppers, mozzarella cheese, anchovies
  • Chicken, cheese, spinach
  • Cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese
  • Leftover turkey or chicken, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, Monterey-jack cheese
  • Sliced ham, provolone cheese, tomatoes, Dijon mustard
  • Sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese
  • Grilled vegetables (red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, onions) cheese
  • Brush one side of the bread with fig jam or jam of choice. Fill with sliced apple and manchego cheese.
  • Dijon mustard, shredded gruyere cheese, sliced roast beef, caramelized onions

Basic Directions:

Slice or use pre-sliced cheese.

Spread bread with condiments, if using.

Lay cheese on one bread slice.

Slice any other ingredients and place on top of the cheese.

Cover with another slice of bread spread with coniment of choice.

Place onto a preheated panini grill. Grill for 2 to 4 minutes.

Open the panini maker and check to see if the ridges are well-formed, the cheese is melted properly and the bread is toasted.

Remove the sandwich from the panini machine and cut in half.

Here are some panini for you to make. After that – use your ceativity.

Turkey Breast with Roasted Peppers and Mozzarella 

Makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless turkey breast
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted peppers
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, sliced

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a gentle simmer. Generously salt water. Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and black pepper. Add turkey and simmer until breast registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and let turkey cool in liquid. Store turkey in liquid, covered and refrigerated, until ready to use.

Preheat a panini press according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove turkey breast from poaching liquid and thinly slice; divide evenly among 4 slices of bread. Top with peppers, basil leaves and mozzarella.

Sandwich with remaining 4 slices of bread and place on the panini press. Close the lid and apply slight pressure; cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes. If bread is sticking to the press, continue to cook and bread will unstick itself. If press is generating more heat from the bottom, flip the sandwich halfway through cooking.

Remove sandwich from press and cut in half before serving.

Steak and Cheese Panini

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large vidalia onions, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 focaccia rolls or bread
  • 12 slices white cheddar cheese

Directions:

Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Place in a sealable plastic bag. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Seal bag. Shake until ingredients are evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour.

Preheat a panini grill.

In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade from the bag with the steak. Add steak to the pan and saute until medium rare, 5-7 minutes per side. Remove steak from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes.

Add onions to the pan with any remaining marinade. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes.

Cut the steak into thin slices across the grain. Put 5 to 7 thin slices of steak on each roll. Top each sandwich with onions and cheddar cheese.

Place the sandwich in the panini press and cook until the cheese melts.

Serves 6

Everything or Anything Panini

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 8 garlic-flavored sandwich pickle slices
  • 8 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick)

Directions:

In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Layer the cheese, ham, tomato, pickles and caramelized onions on four bread slices; top with remaining bread.

Cook on a panini maker for 3-4 minutes or until bread is browned and cheese is melted. Yield: 4 servings.

Chicken Pesto Panini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 focaccia bread, quartered
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 1 cup sliced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions::

Preheat a panini grill.

Slice each quarter of focaccia bread in half horizontally. Spread each half with pesto. Layer bottom halves with equal amounts chicken, bell pepper, onion and cheese. Top with remaining focaccia halves, forming four sandwiches.

Grill paninis 5 minues in the preheated grill,or until focaccia bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Tuna Melt Panini

4 Servings

 Ingredients:

  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard for spreading
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sixteen 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickles

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a panini press.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with two slices of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on top of the cheese and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches.

Add the sandwiches to the press and grill until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Red Pepper, Egg and Provolone Panini

2 servings

In the south of Italy, egg and bell pepper sandwiches are a classic. For variety, add some sautéed or grilled red onion slices.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (1/2-inch thick) Sicilian-style sesame semolina bread or Italian bread of choice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 ounces sharp Provolone cheese, sliced
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, sliced

Directions:

Preheat panini grill or stovetop griddle pan.

In a small bowl, beat eggs, oregano, salt and pepper with a fork. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add egg mixture. Cook, lifting the edges with a fork, 2 to 3 minutes or until set.

Divide eggs, peppers and cheeses between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread slices

Place on panini grill and cover. Grill 5 minutes until golden and cheese starts to melt.

And For Dessert

Chocolate Panini

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices challah or whole wheat bread or bread of choice
  • 2 ounces Nutella

Directions:

Form 2 sandwiches with the bread and Nutella

Transfer to a hot panini press and cook until the bread is golden and the chocolate has melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

(Alternatively, cook the sandwiches in a hot grill pan, turning once and pressing down frequently.)


Cucumbers are generally believed to have originated in India and have been cultivated throughout western Asia for at least 3,000 years. From India, the cucumber spread to Greece and Italy and slightly later to China and southern Russia. Cucumbers probably were brought to the rest of Europe by the Romans and later to the New World via colonialism and trade networks. Their cultivation first appeared in France by the ninth century, Great Britain by the fourteenth century, the Caribbean at the end of the fifteenth century and North America by the middle of the sixteenth century.

Colonial encounters between Europeans and Native Americans resulted in the diffusion of cucumbers throughout North America. The Spanish began growing them in Hispaniola by 1494 and less than a century later European explorers were noting that a wide range of Native American peoples from Montreal to New York, Virginia and Florida were cultivating them, along with a large variety of other crops including maize, beans, squash, pumpkins, and gourds. By the seventeenth century, Native American groups on the Great Plains were also cultivating cucumbers. Cucumbers have a wide range of consumption uses cross-culturally. They are generally eaten fresh or pickled and are particularly important in the diets of people living in Russia and Asia, where they may also be served as a cooked vegetable. In India, the fruits are used in the preparation of chutney and curries. Cucumber seeds, young leaves and cooked stems are also consumed in some parts of Asia. In addition, since at least the nineteenth century, cucumbers have been used in the production of a large variety of cosmetics, including fragrances, body lotions, shampoos and soaps.

The skin, if it is not waxed, and the seeds of cucumbers are edible. As the cucumber matures, however, the seeds can start to become bitter, so look for narrow, young cucumbers at the market for the best taste. The English cucumber is a long and narrow cucumber with a tender, edible skin that is marketed as seedless but actually will contain a few seeds. Cucumbers are available year round with a peak season from May until August. Choose cucumbers with firm, smooth skins, devoid of any blemishes or soft spots. They can be stored in the refrigerator in a bag for about a week. Cucumbers are high in potassium and fiber with moderate amounts of Vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, phosphorous and magnesium.

Although they can be cooked, cucumbers are most often eaten raw in salads, in cold soups, in cucumber based sauces and as hors d’oeuvres. Cucumbers are also the vegetable of choice for pickles. Cucumbers are used to make raita, (pronounced rye-ta), a classic Indian dish. Raita is a mixture of yogurt, cucumbers, seasonings and herbs. It can be used as a condiment or mixed with larger chunks of other vegetables or fruits for a salad. Similar to raita is the Greek cucumber and yogurt sauce, tzatziki. Tzatziki is the classic sauce used on Greek gyros, a sandwich of ground lamb on pita bread with onions and peppers.

Types of Cucumbers

English Cucumbers

English cucumbers (a.k.a. hot house cucumbers) are long and thin with a dark green skin. They are often sold wrapped in plastic at supermarkets, but you can find unwrapped ones at farmers markets. This cucumber has a mild, almost non-existent flavor and is prized for its thin skin and minimal seeds. English cucumbers are best sliced and served raw and are not good for pickling.

Garden Cucumbers

These are the most common cucumbers in North America. They are relatively smooth skinned and dark green. Cucumbers sold at grocery stores tend to be waxed to help them retain moisture, which is part of why these cucumbers tend to need peeling. Un-waxed varieties can be found (particularly at farmers markets), but you may still want to peel them if the skin is thick or bitter.

Kirby Cucumbers

Kirby cucumbers are short and bumpy. They have a range of skin color from yellow to dark green. Kirbys are crunchy, flavorful and perfect for pickling.

Lemon Cucumbers

Yellow, round and the size of a generous fist, lemon cucumbers do look like lemons. They are sweet, without that bitter edge that many cucumbers have, thin skins, minimal soft seeds and flavorful. They are tasty raw, but make delicious pickles too.

Persian Cucumbers

Persian cucumbers are very similar to English cucumbers. They are shorter, with bumpy skin, but have a mild flavor and thin skin.

Asian Cucumbers

Most Asian cucumbers are very narrow and long, growing up to 18 inches long , but remaining less than 2 inches in diameter. The seed cavity is vey small and the flesh is thick, crisp and flavorful. These cucumbers are picked when immature and used for pickling and salads.

Some Basic Cucumber Recipes

Classic Marinated Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 garden cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Water to cover
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh herbs to taste, basil & parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Trim and peel the cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise and then scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut into half rings or chunks.

Place cucumbers in a large bowl.  Stir together the vinegar and sugar and mix with the cucumbers. Add enough water to cover the cucumbers and let the cucumbers soak for a few hours.

Drain the cucumbers. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Chill.

Cucumber Sauce for Cooked Fish

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sour cream (or 1/2 cup light sour cream and 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions:

Place the cucumber in a bowl and toss with the salt, sugar and vinegar.

Let stand for about 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream.

Fold in the dill. May be made a few hours in advance and refrigerated.

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator pickles are easy to make and there’s no need for processing, special jars or vacuum-tight lids. Plus, unlike store-bought pickles, these homemade pickles are lower in sodium.

Yield: 7 cups

 Ingredients:

  • 6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

 Directions:

Place 3 cups of the sliced cucumbers in a medium glass bowl; top with 1 cup onion. Repeat procedure with the remaining cucumbers and onions.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Pour hot mixture over cucumber mixture; let cool. Cover and chill at least 4 days.

Spoon into glass jars for refrigerator storage. Note: Pickles may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.

 Cucumber Tomato Salad

Italian Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad

Lightly salting the tomato wedges and letting them stand briefly concentrates their flavor significantly. Be sure to use a sweet onion to maintain the flavor balance in this refreshing salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium tomatoes, preferably an heirloom variety
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Basil leaves, minced

Directions:

Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized, irregular wedges, discarding any runny seeds. In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and the vinegar. Let the tomatoes stand for up to 30 minutes.

In a mini food processor, pulse the onion until minced; be careful not to over process the onion into a puree.

Shortly before serving, transfer the tomato wedges to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon; discard the tomato juices.

Add the cucumber and onion and toss, then season with salt to taste. Add the olive oil and toss to coat, then add the basil, toss once more and serve.

Try Something Different With Cucumbers

Cucumber Shrimp Appetizers

Yield: 32 appetizers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (8 ounces) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained very well on paper towels
  • 4 ounces cooked shrimp, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
  • 1 English cucumber, unpeeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the pineapple, shrimp, mayonnaise, green onion, mustard and dill. Spoon onto cucumber slices.

Grilled Sourdough Panzanella

Bread salads are common in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, where frugal cooks use stale bread as the primary ingredient. In this Italian version, called panzanella, char the bread on the grill for added flavor. If you don’t feel like grilling the bread, you can toast it on a grill pan or under a low broiler.

Serves four to six. Yields about 6 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 4-1/2-inch-thick slices bread (about 8 oz.) from the center of a round sourdough loaf 
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, sliced into thin rings
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3-1/2 cups)
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

Directions:

Heat a gas grill with all burners on medium. Brush the bread with 1/4 cup of the oil and season it with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Grill the bread on both sides, checking frequently, until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. When the bread is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.

Toss the bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, mint, capers and vinaigrette in the bowl with the shallot. Season the panzanella to taste with kosher salt and pepper and serve.

Asparagus, Green Onion, Cucumber and Herb Salad

Serves 10.

Ingredients:

For the Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad:

  • 3 pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 cups (1/4-inch cubes) peeled, seeded cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

Directions:

Prepare the Dressing:

Whisk first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Set aside.

Prepare the Salad:

Fill a large bowl with lightly salted ice water; stir until salt dissolves. Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Drain, reserving 3 cups of the cooking liquid. Transfer asparagus to the bowl of salted ice water to cool.

Place green onions in another large bowl; pour hot reserved asparagus cooking liquid over the green onions and let stand until cool, about 30 minutes.

Separately drain asparagus and green onions well.

Transfer onions to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry.

Combine green onions, cucumbers and herbs in mixing bowl.

Add dressing; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus on platter. Spoon cucumber mixture over and serve.

Italian Picnic Sandwich

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf focaccia bread ( 12 inches in diameter)
  • 1/2 cup prepared creamy Italian dressing, see recipe below
  • 6 -8 lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced and separated
  • 4 ounces sliced Provolone cheese
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced salami
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thin

Directions

Cut bread in half horizontally. Spread 1/4 cup of the dressing on the bottom half. Top with half of the lettuce.

Layer with cucumber, green pepper, onion, cheese, meats and tomato. Top with remaining lettuce.

Spread remaining dressing on the top half of the bread before covering the bottom.

Cover with plastic wrap and place a heavy skillet on top to press it down. Let sit for a few minutes.

Remove skillet and plastic wrap and cut sandwich into 8 wedges.

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

 Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup reduced-calorie mayonnaise
  • 6 tablespoons reduced fat milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

 Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, water, vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper until blended. For best flavor, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

 Related articles


The garden pepper is not related to the true pepper (Piper nigrum) from which we get the common black pepper for seasoning our food. Why do we call garden peppers “pepper”? The answer goes back to Columbus. He had set forth on his famous voyages to find a short route to India and the East Indies largely for trade. Spices from the East were important in commerce and therefore of much interest to Columbus and his commercial-adventurer associates. When they found the inhabitants of the West Indies growing and using fiery forms of Capsicum, the product was thought to be a kind of pepper.

In the first half of the 16th century, voyagers to the Americas encountered many forms of peppers, not only in the West Indies but in Central America, Mexico, Peru, Chile-wherever they touched the American Tropics. By the beginning of the 17th century virtually every form known today had been found.

The Scoville Heat Index, invented by Wilbur Scoville, ranks peppers in order from mildest to hottest. It starts with zero being the mildest and goes over 1,000,000 to indicate the hottest peppers. Use a pair of non-latex gloves to protect your hands when handling peppers. Some individuals are more sensitive to the irritants in peppers than others. Though there are dozens of different kinds of peppers, here’s information on some of the more widely used types.  

BELL PEPPER

Bell Peppers can be red, yellow, green, orange or purple/black. . They are very common sweet peppers. Since this type of pepper has no heat, its Scoville Heat Index is zero. You can cook bell peppers in a variety of different ways, however don’t expect this type of pepper to add spice to your food.

 

CUBANELLE PEPPERS

Cubanelles are also called the Italian Frying Pepper because they taste great sauteed with a little olive oil. The Cubanelle is considered a sweet pepper, although its heat can range from mild to moderate. Cubanelles are usually picked before they ripen while they are a yellowish-green color, but when ripe, they turn bright red. They are usually about 4-6 inches long, 2 inches wide, and banana-shaped, tapering near the bottom. The skin should be glossy and the pepper should be smooth and firm.

SWEET BANANA PEPPER

Banana-shaped peppers change from pale to deep yellow or orange as they mature. These are easily confused with hotter yellow wax peppers, so taste before using.  Sweet Banana peppers may be fried or sauteed, used raw on relish platters, in salads, in sandwiches or stuffed.

ITALIAN SWEET PEPPERS

Italian sweet peppers look much like the Anaheim chili pepper used in Southwestern cooking but with the mild taste of sweet bell peppers.The pepper is 6 to 8 inches long, conical and bright green with a mild flavor and fleshy texture. In Italian recipes the peppers are sauteed in olive oil as a side dish for meats. Italian sweet peppers can also top pizza or be included in pasta and risotto. Italian sweet peppers are sometimes added to salads and antipasto platters.

PEPERONCINO

(Not to be confused with the green Tuscan Peppers called Pepperoncini.) One of the most beautiful colors of summer in southern Italy is the deep red of chili peppers, strung together and hung out to dry from windows, balconies, clotheslines or nailed to trees in the countryside—especially in Calabria. This region, at the tip of the boot of Italy, is the main producer and consumer of chili pepper, or peperoncino, as it is called in Italian. In the Calabrian markets, you will often see elderly women, clothed completely in black, sitting beside their colorful heaps of produce, patiently sewing strings of chili with a needle and thread.

The chili pepper plant belongs to the Capsicum genus,which is part of the same family as tomatoes. In Italy, Capiscuum annuumi, which is known as peperoncino di Cayenna, is the most common hot pepper grown. On the Scoville scale, peperoncino di Cayenna ranges in the middle. In southern Italy, these little red peppers are often called diavoletti (little devils). Typically, hot countries develop hot, spicy cuisines as a natural means of cooling down the body through perspiration.

Chili peppers were grown as a food crop as early as 4000 BC in Central America; but it wasn’t until the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-16th. century that the plant was introduced to the rest of the world. Very quickly, trade routes began carrying chili peppers to Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East and Asia. Today, this spice seems to be growing in popularity around the globe. In northern Italy, where chili pepper was virtually unknown just a couple of generations ago, peperoncino is now more and more appreciated and incorporated into Italian cuisine. Peperoncino adds spice and flavor not only to the simple foods of southern Italy, but for some people, this hot spice becomes almost addictive. Spicy food lovers add it to virtually everything – fish, vegetable pasta sauces, soups and stews, as well as egg dishes. As a general rule of thumb, peperoncino is not recommended for delicate and creamy preparations, but is more suitable for robust sauces and recipes. In southern Italy, ground chili peppers are sometimes added to salami and cheese. Also, hot peppers are preserved in oil to produce a flavorful, spicy oil.

 

CHERRY PEPPER

Also known as pimento peppers, cherry peppers are heart-shaped and are about four inches long and three inches wide. These peppers are actually very mild, scoring about 500 on the Scoville Heat Index. Cherry peppers are perhaps best known to be the red filling that can typically be found inside green olives.

ANAHEIM PEPPER

Another mild type of pepper is the Anaheim pepper. This pepper is usually dark red in color and has a long, skinny body. While the Anaheim pepper usually has a Scoville Heat Index around 1,000, some varieties can have a rating as high as 5,000. Relative to the rest of this list, this pepper is not very hot.

JALAPENO PEPPER

The jalapeno is one of the most common types of peppers in the United States. Many people like this type of pepper because of its spicy, yet not overwhelming taste. Jalapeno are usually either red or green and are about two to three inches long. Their Scoville Heat Index is typically around 5,000, however jalapenos can range anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000. These peppers, when used sparingly, add just the right amount of spicy flavor to most Mexican dishes. Many people also deep fry cheese stuffed jalapenos for a spicy appetizer.

POBLANO PEPPER

Mild, heart-shaped pepper that has thick walls, which make them great for stuffing. Because it is a rather mild pepper, it can be used in quantity to add a deep rich flavor to any chili dish.

SERRANO PEPPER

The Serrano pepper is similar to the jalapeno in its look, but this pepper is much hotter. On the Scoville Heat Index, the Serrano Pepper can be between 10,000 and 25,000. This pepper is usually small (around two inches) and green in color. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the Serrano pepper, the hotter it will taste.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                        CAYENNE PEPPER

The Cayenne pepper is another hot pepper (between 25,000 and 50,000 on the Scoville Heat Index) that is popular with those looking to add heat to food. Red in color, the Cayenne pepper is generally dried and used in powder form. Additionally, this pepper has been used in natural medicines for hundreds of years, due to its reported healing attributes.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                           THAI PEPPER

Grown in Thailand and neighboring countries, the Thai pepper is a type of pepper that can be classified as “very hot”. With a Scoville Heat Index of between 50,000 and 100,000, these peppers are sure to leave your taste buds wanting relief. The Thai pepper is one of the smallest peppers, measuring in at less than an inch. It’s used in many spicy Thai dishes at restaurants in the US.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                        ROCOTO PEPPER

While Rocoto peppers look somewhat like bell peppers, it can be dangerous to get the two mixed up. While bell peppers aren’t hot at all, the Rocoto pepper is extremely hot. Between 100,000 and 250,000 on the Scoville Heat Index, this pepper is about the size of a bell pepper but is rounder and is typically only red or green. Some people use this pepper to make very spicy sauces.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                    HABANERO CHILI PEPPER

Of hot peppers that are commonly used, the Habanero chili is recognized as the hottest. This pepper can range in color from green to yellow and is usually only around 1 ½ inches or 3 centimeters in length. However, do not let the small size fool you – the Habanero chili can pack a punch! The Scoville Heat Index for the Habanero chili can range from 150,000 to 350,000.

PEPPERONCINI

Pepperoncini (Tuscan Peppers) are another kind of chili pepper that is green when young and red when fully mature. Unlike the Italian sweet peppers, pepperoncini have a wrinkly skin and are crunchy, slightly bitter and somewhat spicy. They grow from 2 inches to 4 inches long and are a popular Italian appetizer. They are also often served pickled, which gives them a light salty taste. Pepperoncini were originally grown in Tuscany, so they are also called Tuscan Peppers.

 

Pickled Pepperoncini Without Canning

Pepperoncini are not as spicy as many other peppers, so they are a good choice for those who do not enjoy extremely spicy food. You can stuff them, add them to soups and sandwiches, incorporate them into soups and stews or eat them as a pickle. Pepperoncini are most often pickled rather than used plain. Pickling your own pepperoncini is a relatively simple process and you enjoy these peppers for months to come.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh pepperoncini peppers
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 4 garlic cloves

Directions:

Wash the peppers with cold water and allow them to dry.

Put water, vinegar, sugar and salt into a soup pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and stir until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and add bay leaves, whole coriander seeds and black peppercorns. Chop the garlic into small chunks and add it to the pot. Allow this to simmer for five minutes.

Leave peppers whole and pierce their sides three to four times. Place the peppers into storage jars and leave about 1 inch of head space.

Pour the hot liquid into the jars containing the peppers, screw on their lids and allow the jars to cool before placing them in the refrigerator. Let the peppers marinade for at least a week before using. The pickle flavor will be stronger the longer they sit.

Tips: The pickles will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Do not use if pressure develops in the jars or if the liquid becomes really cloudy and begins to smell. This can be a sign of contamination and the pickles are not safe to eat.

Stuffed Hot Peppers

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 15 small hot peppers
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or more if needed)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise, including the stem. Scrape out the seeds (use a grapefruit spoon). Leave a few seeds in if you like your food spicy.

Mix all the other ingredients together making sure the stuffing is well saturated with oil.

Using a small spoon, stuff the peppers with the bread crumb mixture. Pat down lightly. Place the peppers in a greased baking pan and cover with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and check peppers for tenderness. Bake 8-10 more minutes if needed.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

 

Italian Roasted Sweet Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 16 large sweet Italian peppers
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh Basil

Directions:

Wash the peppers and allow to completely dry.

Cut off the stem ends and pull out the seeds and white membranes.

Turn the peppers upside down and tap on the cutting board to shake out any loose seeds.

Put the oil and minced garlic into a large glass baking pan and mix the two.

Add the peppers and toss until each pepper is totally coated with garlic oil.

Roast at 350 degrees F. for about 50 minutes. When the peppers begin to brown and start to collapse, they are done. Sprinkle with salt and fresh basil.

They can also be refrigerated for a day or two until needed for another recipe. They are excellent as a side for pork chops or roasted chicken breasts.

 

Italian Sausage and Peppers

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage with fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 6 pickled cherry (hot) peppers, stemmed and seeded, but left whole
  • 2 medium yellow bell peppers , cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

Directions:

Poke the sausages all over with a fork and cut into 5-6 inch pieces. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large heavy skillet and heat over medium heat. Add half the sausages and half the garlic and cook, turning occasionally, until the sausages are well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the browned sausages and garlic to a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, leaving the fat behind.  Pour the fat off and add the remaining oil. Cook the remaining sausages and garlic until browned. Transfer to the baking dish.

While the sausages are browning preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Scatter the onions, peppers and cherry peppers over the sausages in the baking dish, toss all the ingredients together well and place in the oven.

Bake uncovered, tossing occasionally, until the vegetables are tender but still firm and no trace of pink remains in the sausages, about 45 minutes. Serve hot with crusty Italian bread.

Italian Broccoli with Peppers

6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 medium sweet red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 medium sweet yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add broccoli; cover and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels..

In a large nonstick skillet, saute peppers in oil for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add the broccoli, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Italian Pepper & Egg Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 4 green or red bell peppers, (or Cubanelle or Italian sweet), washed, seeded and sliced.
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 5 large eggs, scrambled in bowl with 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced or 4 ciabatta rolls
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Mild or hot Giardiniera (optional)

See post  on how to make Giardiniera:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/06/07/how-to-make-italian-pickled-vegetables-giardiniera/

Directions:

In large skillet add olive oil and garlic and saute on low until garlic is golden, (do not burn). Add peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper, stir to coat vegetables with oil. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring frequently, until peppers are soft. Raise heat to med-high and add eggs, stirring well to mix the eggs into the peppers. Cook eggs thoroughly, but be careful not to burn them. Sprinkle with cheese and red pepper serve on an Italian roll or Italian bread with Giardiniera.



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